Sun-Safe Ways to Get your Daily Dose of Vitamin D

Vitamin D has been making waves in the news as more research shows just how important it is for your health.  Not getting enough vitamin D can put children at risk of developing high blood pressure, high blood sugar, heart disease, and weak bones. New research suggests that not getting enough vitamin D can even raise a child’s risk of developing diabetes.

The good news is that kids can raise their levels of this essential vitamin just by playing outside in the sunshine – something that is already good for their health! That’s because our body’s main source of the vitamin is producing it in our skin with the help of the sun’s rays.

My body can make vitamins?

That may sound crazy, but in the case of vitamin D, it’s true!  It’s hard to get enough sun to make the vitamin during the winter months, especially in cities that are farther north (like Boston), but it is possible in the summertime just by spending time outdoors with your family. You can also get vitamin D from eating foods like salmon, yogurt, eggs, and margarine, but for many people, it is hard to get enough from food alone. The best way to meet your body’s vitamin D needs is to spend a few minutes every day in the sun without wearing sunscreen.

But shouldn’t children always wear sunscreen when they go outside?

Yes, sunscreen is important, even on cloudy days! But to make sure your family is getting enough vitamin D, doctors recommend 10 to 15 minutes per day of sun exposure for kids who are not especially sensitive to the sun. Darker skin may require as much as 20 minutes of sun exposure per day. If your child is sun-sensitive, talk to your doctor about the best way to make sure he or she is getting enough of this important vitamin through food sources or by taking a supplement. And make sure to put sunscreen on your children after they’ve gotten their 15 minutes of sun!

Vitamin D is just one more reason for your family to spend time outside together this summer. Just think of all the vitamin D your skin can make while playing in Frog Pond, picnicking along the Charles River, or going for a walk in your own neighborhood!

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